My Townhall.com column, “The Majority Leader’s Moment,” looks at the opportunities and perils in front of Bill Frist as his last few months in Congress wind down.
Senator McCain is doing his best to make his path through the GOP primaries even more difficult than McCain-Feingold, McCain-Kennedy and the Gang of 14 has made it already. He and Senators Warner and Graham are opposing the president’s military tribunal bill, and Senator Graham especially has lapsed into the grandstanding that is certain to irk the base, because it incorporates the uniquely grating moral superiority that Graham occasionally lapses into with the senator’s insinuation that all senators who oppose his point of view are motivated by electioneering combined with disdain for the military’s safety.
“This is not about November 2006. It is not about your election,” Senator Graham preached yesterday. “It is about those who take risks to defend America.”
Senators Graham, McCain and Warner are of the view that the tribunals and attendant procedures will expose captured American military to conditions that are not the norm among Geneva Conventions signatories if the president’s proposals are adopted.
The short response is that stateless terrorists are not signatories to the Conventions, and that al Qaeda does not care one way or the other what the tribunals look like or how they operate. As Senator John Cornyn says, al Qaeda “doesn’t take any prisoners. The prisoners they do take they behead.”
The National Intelligence Direcor, John Negraponte, also told reporters this morning about the Warner/McCain/Graham bill that if “this draft legislation were passed in its present form, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency has told me that he did not believe that the (interrogation) program could go forward.”
Senators Warner, McCain and Graham haven’t persuaded their party, and they surely won’t persuade the House. It is time to try the murderers of 9/11.
It is also time for the Senate to hold hearings on the efficacy of the Geneva Conventions given the disdain with which enemies of the United States have treated them over time. Even now –with members of the IDF kidnapped and held by terrorists– we see that the new enemy cares nothing for the internal law governing lawful combatants. (We saw the same conduct with Saddam’s regime, with North Vietnam’s, with North Korea’s over the past two generations, but at least these gangster regimes were shamed by the treatment they delivered their captives and attempted to hide the fact.)
Senators Warner, McCain and Graham need very much to read The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Path to 9/11. And Republican primary voters need to pay very close attention to the next few weeks in the Senate. Senators McCain and Graham have already torpedoed The Constitutional Option as well as up or down votes for judicial nominees allegedly guaranteed just that by the Gang of 14’s “deal.” Now their actions are jeopardizing necessary legislation supported by the overwhelming majority of their colleagues in the GOP and by a great, though not unopposed, weight of legal scholarship.
Contact these senators and urge passage of the president’s bill:
Senator Warner: (202) 224-2023; E-mail here.
Senator McCain: (202) 224-2235; E-mail here.
Senator Graham: (202) 224-5972; E-mail here.